ARC Review: Wind Down by Mark Ewig

**I was given a copy of this book by the author, Mark Ewig, in exchange for an honest review.**

Wind Down by Mark Ewig
Published: October 2014 as a self-published book
Genre(s): Mystery, paranormal
Trigger Warnings: Violence, murder, disturbing imagery
Pages: 218 pgs. in iBooks
Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads):

Aaron Starks survived a near death experience when he was stabbed by an unknown assailant. All of his college roommates were suspects. However, investigators could turn up nothing to catch the attempted murderer.
Fifteen years later, Aaron is all grown up with a family. Things are going great until he starts experiencing strange blackouts and other paranormal visions. During the blackouts he still interacts with others, but he cannot remember anything he said or did. Doctors are unable to provide an answer. It is not until Aaron has an encounter with Ju’van, a local shaman, that he realizes what he needs to do. He is sent on a journey to meet up with all his old roommates to discover the truth on what really happened the night he was stabbed in the back.

Review:

It’s fair to say that only the dead know what happens once we inevitably shuffle off the mortal coil, however, it doesn’t stop the living from speculating what could be there on the other side of our demise. Are we reincarnated? Do we ascend to a higher plane of existence or face fire and brimstone? Maybe there’s nothing there except our bodies gradually decomposing six feet under. Throughout his debut novel, Wind Down, author Mark Ewig takes us through his idea of one of the many possibilities of life after death that really has one thinking about the loose ties left behind in one’s life. However intriguing the premise, though, there’s something to be said about the execution that leaves a lot to be desired and ultimately serves as a major distraction from the flow of the plot.

Fifteen years after literally being stabbed in the back by one of his best friends slash college roommates, Aaron Starks has all but forgotten his past as he enjoys life as a successful marketing executive. However, out of nowhere he starts to experience blackouts for extended lengths of time in which he honestly cannot remember what happened in the time between the beginning and end of the blackout. Gradually, as the blackouts grow longer and longer, Aaron realizes that they might have something to do with the fateful night he was stabbed and finally solving the mystery that’s plagued him for almost half his life. However, with these blackouts lasting longer and longer, Aaron finds out — though the guidance of a shaman — that he ultimately has a race against time to get to the bottom of his attack before he blacks out…for good.

Kudos have to be given to Ewig for his creativity with Wind Down. It’s an interesting concept to think that, after reaching death, your subconscious takes some time for it to literally wind down before expiring for good. To be put in Aaron’s situation — remembering being in one place, then waking up somewhere else, maybe even a different state — would definitely be terrifying to consider. Furthermore, the nightmares Aaron kept having from time to time, especially the ones involving the black shadow creature, added to the sense of dread and despair that permeated the story. I also thought incorporating the three little birds from Bob Marley’s eponymous song was a nice little touch to give the readers a clue that Aaron was gradually reaching the conclusion to the problems plaguing him. They would show up in unexpected places throughout his quest, such as tattoos on a woman’s legs or in a painting, leaving clues to no one within the story but Aaron. Another merit to this book is that Ewig made the action fast-paced enough that it I was left wanting to know exactly how his protagonist was going to solve this murderous maze.

However, one of the things that made Wind Down so frustrating is its carelessness with the technical aspects of writing. For example, throughout the entirety of the book, the narration would often switch between past and present tenses. One of the more glaring instances of this phenomenon came near the beginning of the story, when Aaron and his roommates met their neighbors for the first time. It’s perfectly illustrated by this sentence: “At first she doesn’t say anything and just sized Aaron up.” “Doesn’t” is, without question, within the present tense, while “sized” is past tense. More often, though, the tenses swapped between paragraphs rather than in the same sentence. Furthermore, there’d be points in which Ewig would use certain words incorrectly. In the fourth chapter, the narrator noted, “What if he got in a car crash due to not being lucent?” I’m sure Ewig meant lucid — to be clear of mind and focus — and not lucent — which translates to light-bearing in Latin and is also the name of a telecommunications equipment company. Many more instances of this type of error popped up throughout; twice the word “fleeted” is used as the past tense of “flee,” but the correct form of this verb is “fled.” Furthermore, I feel like a lot of the characters aren’t fully fleshed-out, but are actually placeholders for certain tropes: Jessica as the — literal — golden and perfect girlfriend, Jordan as the gimmicky “slut” role, Drew as the dark and brooding character, etc. We don’t even get to know what our main character looks like, but of course we know exactly how hot Jessica was considering she was the love interest. Although, things like these examples are fixed fairly easily when a piece is passed through the hands of an editor.

All in all, Wind Down has shown potential to be something good. It has the all of the right elements: an interesting premise, fast-paced action, a mystery that the readers help to solve, and the ability to evoke the reader’s emotions at some points. However, especially from a technical standpoint, there is definitely something left to be desired. On top of many instances of incorrect word choices and tense confusion, most of Wind Down’s characters are just TV Tropes articles instead of being realistic people going through the events of the story. I can feel, though, that Ewig is just getting started. If he can just nail down some of his problematic areas, his creativity could lead him to great places.

Amazing Pug Scale:

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